The Gatehouse Blog

Honest reflections on an unprecedented time

When you’re part of an industry such as hospitality that’s been hit incredibly hard by COVID-19, it can be tough to motivate a dispersed workforce when they are naturally worried about what the future holds – and finding the right platform to unite your team is essential when it comes to landing those inevitable difficult messages. With restaurants in London, Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and beyond, Workplace from Facebook has really helped bring the team at Honest Burgers together on many levels during the pandemic – and Engagement and Communication Manager Dan Davis is happy to share his key takeaways with the Journal of Internal Communication.

Look on the bright side

“You have to take positives out of the situation. I always saw the potential of Workplace as an amazing way of shifting how organisations not just communicated but also operated holistically. I was always banging the Workplace drum to the stakeholders at Honest and COVID-19 has helped us to really drill down on the return on investment, to highlight just how powerful having a platform that connects everybody in one place – speaking to each other, working with each other, connecting with each other – can be when things aren’t going so well.”

Harness the power of communication

“One of our senior leaders has even said – no exaggeration – that he didn’t know if our business would have survived without Workplace. Because of it we could reach everyone really quickly, especially because we had to communicate so much – for example, giving people a clear understanding of how furlough worked. But, on top of that, for people to be able to query things instantly and for it all to be working really seamlessly, we could make sure that everybody immediately had that insight of what we were doing, why we were doing it and how it affected them. It was just so powerful.”

“One of our senior leaders has even said – no exaggeration – that he didn’t know if our business would have survived without Workplace from Facebook.”

Keep things interesting – and collaborative

“One of the big things we did was run an initiative called Honest Nation. There was, essentially, a schedule of events and broadcasts through Workplace; things that people could participate in or just watch or listen to. We had all sorts of stuff happening there – one of our founders, Tom, ran a HIIT class twice a week at the beginning of lockdown, we had yoga twice a week too, and we also had a weekly call with our executive team called State of the Nation. It was a Q&A session, so people could come in and ask questions and the executive gave an update on how things were.”

Execs are people too!

“Having our execs contributing to the comms that we put out was hugely valuable in helping our people stay informed about what was going on, while feeling better supported by the leadership team. And, actually, we saw a real authentic side to our leaders; we realised that we were all people going through the same thing. It didn’t matter if you’re a senior exec or a waiter, everyone was going through very similar challenges – and, because of that, there was a level of openness that was really powerful.”

Learn from this experience

“From a senior leadership position, we knew that we had to decide x, y, and z – and that we needed to tell everyone straight away. We were very resilient in terms of the amount of time and effort we put into keeping people in the loop throughout the entirety of this pandemic; you know, from full lockdown to partial lockdown, to reopening restaurants for delivery, to reopening restaurants to eat, and all along that road. But, ultimately, we are still in a pandemic, so we still have a lot that we don’t know yet. That’s where we’ve actually had to take some of that COVID-19 mentality and think, ‘okay, how does that look in a longer-term strategy?’ It’s about how we can look forward and apply the mentality that we had when we were in full lockdown of human first every single time to build something that is meaningful to people.”

Focus on what’s important

“We’ve all become ruthless prioritisers [sic] – and the reason is twofold. Reason one is because we have to focus on what’s really important in a working environment; and reason two is because we need to give ourselves the personal space to get on top of our work-life balance. I think one of the biggest things that’s come out of this is that work-life balance is unbelievably important. Looking to the future, I think people’s expectations are going to be very different. I think we need to be ready to adapt, be flexible and be understanding when people say, ‘the first thing that matters to me is my work-life balance’. I’ve seen a lot of people who’ve been on furlough for a few months and had that reflection time and been like, ‘Wow, that was awesome’.”

Don’t be afraid to rewrite your story

“We’ve seen a much rawer version of our culture, in terms of the way that we’ve communicated over the last few months. I think that rawness has helped us to really understand our story – about who we are, what matters to us, our culture, our purpose. We’re in a much better position now, based on the last few months, to know what’s in our DNA as a business and what matters to us. How that applies in a communications space is that we have to focus on ensuring our messaging revolves around coaching, not telling – and that it’s much more focused on storytelling, bringing people on the journey, and mentoring them through that journey.”

Honesty is the best policy

“Clear that to-do list and prioritise ruthlessly. Be honest about timelines, cut out what’s not important, and focus on the things that really, really matter. And be honest about it with stakeholders, because you’ll be much more effective – and that’s going to be better on your mental health. Try and find ways to focus on how to be an authentic storyteller too. We saw truth and honesty and realness from people that we haven’t seen before. I think stripping things back is a way of building trust with people, as is simply making communications really interesting. When people see something real, they will engage with it better.”

Biography: Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis has been working in the digital space for over six years, honing in on people, engagement and communication in that 18 months at Honest Burgers, a nationwide burger chain with restaurants in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Brighton, Bristol and beyond. His role focuses on harnessing the awesome power of technology to transform the employee experience at Honest. Daniel has been locked down in south London, where he’s been learning to use a drill, looking after a sourdough starter, and perfecting his working from home set up.